When Your Body Doesn’t Love Sex as Much as You

The CHRONICles is a fortnightly column by Caroline Marie McDonagh-Delves and Rachel Charlton-Dailey discussing life with chronic illness, chronic pain and disability. Content warning: this column will regularly discuss ableism and topics relating to disability.

Please note: This piece contains adult content and is NSFW.


My name is Rachel Charlton-Dailey and I am a wanker.

No really; I love masturbating. I am a big advocate of “me time” and am a firm believer that there’s no better way to make yourself feel good than literally making yourself feel good.

For me, masturbating shouldn’t be something that’s never talked about, so I strive to never make anyone feel shamed. I talk about masturbation in the same way I would lunch. There’s an ongoing joke at Nopebook HQ that the day hasn’t started properly until Rach mentions wanking. I know this can come across as crass for a lot of people, but that is the crux of the issue; in such enlightened times it is still seen as taboo for women to talk about pleasure and sex.

However I am also disabled, so as much as I love buzzing one out not all of my body does.

I love nothing more than taking time with my body, making myself feel good and not rushing an orgasm. However, I have arthritis, so this can be difficult. Holding a vibrator for too long makes my wrist lock and swell. Using fingers is an option, but again the arthritis doesn’t help there. Of course I have two hands, but when you have a weakness down your left side that makes movements more than 50% slower and can only orgasm from clitoral stimulation, that isn’t going to cut it.

The day hasn’t properly started until Rach mentions wanking

As well as pain that’s caused by movement there’s also the unexpected pains that disabled people experience that aren’t thought about. For instance staying in one position — i.e. legs open — can hurt if maintained for too long as the muscle damage in my thighs mean they physically can’t stay like that. Osteoporosis in my hips often hurts more when I’m lying down than when I’m walking around, and I also have snapping fascia lata which means that my hip tendons click in and out for no reason — bringing with it a very irritating noise.

Scientifically, masturbation is known to alleviate menstrual symptoms, but when you’re both pre-menopausal yet still ovulating (a weird side effect of my hysterectomy that shouldn’t technically be able to happen), orgasms can often cause more trouble than good. During the time when I should be having a period, masturbating can lead to crippling cramps.

Masturbating is also supposed to increase energy, but when you have chronic fatigue and a limited amount of energy its not always the case. I often use lack of motivation as an excuse to go masturbate, but then find myself having to lie half naked for the next hour.

Your partner will probably be more mad if you put your body through pain for their pleasure.

As a disabled person, people are often shocked that I’m so sexual, they see disabled people as childlike fragile things that can’t possibly enjoy sex. When doing sex with a partner my disability doesn’t come into as much as on my own. It’s often easier to lie back and enjoy it and not have to worry about my hands and wrists. I do worry that I’m not doing enough or not being an attentive enough lover, but communication is key when having sex with a partner.

Don’t be afraid to let your partner know that you’re in too much pain to do certain things or to ask to switch positions, more often than not they’ll be more mad if you don’t tell them and put your body through something for their pleasure. A good partner wants you to enjoy it as much, if not more than them and will never make you feel pressured into compromising your health. There’s also a lot of pressure, especially in male/female relationships to orgasm every time, but some times that’s just not physically possible and it should never be the end goal.

Lets be honest, sex is funny it should be a fun experience where you can casually make jokes about your hip cracking or your stupid legs stopping working halfway through, but this shouldn’t be reserved just for sex with someone else. Go easy on yourself, if you come you come. If you need to stop or make it less painful do it.

And if you’re still wondering, no there is no sexy way to tell someone “that’s just my hip” .

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